We share your fly-fishing ‘firsts’
ON my 50th birthday, I wanted to try fly-fishing; something I’ve long had a hankering for, after coarse fishing as a kid on the canals then spending 30-odd years messing about in boats. I went with a friend to Kilnsey Park, a local stocked stillwater fishery. I brought lots of enthusiasm but no skill, yet after a brief intro on how to cast a fly, a trout obliged my feeble attempts and took my Buzzer - whatever one of those was… What a run around it gave me. I finally had it safely in the net, followed some time later by a second. They were both blue trout; again, something I had never heard off. Despite the gaps in my knowledge, it was safe to say I was firmly sold on this new pastime. I invested in some proper lessons from the excellent Jeff Metcalfe and spent the winter practising on stocked stillwaters with rainbows and blues, while dreaming of exploring rivers in my quest for a brownie. All the while, I soaked up as much information and advice as possible. At the start of the new season, I hit my local river, the Ure, with the now-familiar blend of much enthusiasm and no skill. Rivers were a totally different game, but great fun. By the time mid-summer came, I was one of those ‘oddballs’ not celebrating the great heatwave of 2018. The river became very low and very warm, its elusive brownies even more reluctant, but I took the view that any time on the water was time well spent, as I was at least improving my casting and presentation skills. My birthday loomed but no river brownie had yet graced my net. I had caught a stocked stillwater brownie, with which I was very pleased, but it wasn’t the holy grail I really wanted. I had joined a Facebook group run by the Yorkshire Fly Guys, which proved another great source of advice. They were having a club trip to Mulberry Whin on the Driffield West Beck, the most northerly chalk stream in the country [featured in TF 428 and again in this issue, p8]. I felt I wasn’t ready for such a sacred venue but the members were very welcoming and encouraging, and the river was everything I imagined a trout chalk stream would be; gin clear with a nice steady flow and plenty of fish moving about, although they were easily spooked. A chap called Dave gave me some top tips on the water and I set up a ‘duo’ rig, with a nymph under a Klinkhamer. I had a solid take on my surface ‘Klink’; solid enough to destroy the fly, but as usual I missed setting the hook. Nonetheless, it was an encouraging sign. Replacing the Klinkhamer, I tried again, letting the rig drift back down to where I had seen some fish feeding. A fish that I had not seen came shooting out from under an overhanging branch and took the nymph without hesitation. Surprise, elation, relief and immense satisfaction all followed as I landed my first river brownie at last, and what a lovely fish it was too. I could have happily finished there and then but the second fish of the day was just the icing on the cake and a memory I hope to keep for a very long time. More fish were rising now, so on Dave’s advice, I tied on a single dry, a size 16 Tup’s Indispensable; the very fly Jeff Metcalfe had recommended at my first lesson. Casting upstream, just beyond where I had spotted a rise, my cast was actually on target for a change, and blessed with a drag-free drift. I watched the fish rise, quietly sip my fly and disappear back under the surface. I tightened the line: fish on. There were lots of runs and jumps but eventually it came to the net. My God: everything worked just like it says in the books… Immensely satisfied, I returned the fish to the water and realised that an entire summer’s frustration and flaying around had led to that moment. Every mistake made, every fly stuck up a tree was all about learning, so that it might all come together for this one perfect moment. I went home a happy man, my first year in fly-fishing ending in style. Shortly after I returned to my home patch and started to experiment with ‘Euro nymphing’. Finally, a Ure brownie came to my net. You can teach a not-so-old dog new tricks after all, but only if he’s prepared to learn from his mistakes and stick it out for the long run.
life. Terry Hailwood with his first river brown – a true milestone in anyone’s fly-fishing